Back in October my school held its Staff Retreat. This only happens once every two years, but it is always a happy occasion. This year Fr. Roger Dawson SJ came and spoke with us. His talk was inspiring, and it felt as though he has planned it knowing I would be one of his listeners (perhaps everyone felt like that). He spoke about life's journey, the ups and downs, and he used his experience of walking the Camino de Santiago as his guide.
Well, as you can see, he was on my wave length, for I too have great memories of that pilgrimage, and learnt many things through my own journey. Fr. Roger drew many lessons from the pilgrimage. He spoke about Ignatius of Loyola's 'Consolations of the Spirit', little moments in which you know you are on the right path. These 'consolations', he explained, are moments in which you receive energy from the place, time and task you are in. We recognise such times easily when we are happy in our work, or with our friends. But, such energy and strength can also come at sadder times, such as when you are in the right place at the right time, grieving with a friend or nursing the sick for example. Fr. Roger likened these 'consolations of the spirit' to the yellow arrows which mark the way to Santiago de Compostela. You never know when they might appear, or on what they might be painted, but when you need them, they'll be there, pointing you in the right direction.
I have had cause to think about what Fr. Roger said recently. I remembered he encouraged us to keep a daily notebook and in it record, at the end of the day, everything we are grateful for. Little things, he said, like the bus driver who waits for you, or the children that help you move your classroom desks; a delicious meal prepared by a loved one, or a kind word from a colleague. Keeping such a diary, he said, would change the way you see and experience the world around you. I loved this idea, and tried it for at least a month. It worked, and really did help me to see things rightly. But, after a while I began to forget to stop still in the evening, was too busy marking, cooking or reading to be writing in my little book of thankfulness.
Then the school retreat came round, Lent was beginning and I was going to be asked to lead a workshop on 'Faith and Journey'. Fr. Roger's idea came back to me. As part of my session I would ask my students to use post-its to decorate a huge wall with all the things in their lives they were grateful for. It was a really touching exercise, we had a few laughs and a few tears. But, after a week or so, the board was taken down and I forgot about it. Maybe my students did too.
The other day a fellow blogger, Mulier Fortis, was looking for inspiration, and I tweeted 'how about a blog of thankfulness?'. I didn't even think about it much, but a while later my phone went 'Ping!' and I noted she had 'favourited' the tweet. I was happy.
Today I found my little book of thankfulness from October. There are simple things recorded in there that make me smile, like the time I saw seven rainbows on a day out walking in November, or game of scrabble in which I laughed and lost. I am delighted to have found this little book today, and I will take up writing in it again. I'll try not to forget this time. It has been a brilliant month in many ways, and I should be grateful for the many happinesses there are in my life, but too often I worry about the work I should be doing, or the money I do not have. Life is too short for such nonsense.
I calculated I only have £10 left 'til payday, but in my new spirit of thankfulness I found I had some great ingredients for dinners for the rest of this week. I am grateful for:
Butternut Squash Risotto (made with Chillies and Parmesan)
Cauliflower Cheese (Smoked cheddar)
Homemade bread (with an apple in it)
Carrot and Parsnip Soup
And the fabulous things I am going to make with potatoes, mushrooms and bacon (to be confirmed). I think I'll save the £10 for wine on Friday. :-)